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Best Cars

Best Small Cars for 2018

By Martin Pratt

Article 4 of 16

Looking for a great small car? The best small cars are affordable, reliable and easy to drive, yet feel secure on a motorway

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The best small cars are loved by their owners. And for good reason: they're compact enough to be easy to drive in town and just large enough to be comfortable on long-distance trips. 

Plus they're affordable to buy and run, and practical so they cope well with everyday duties. From shopping and the school run, to ferrying about friends or even a daily commute, the best small cars are up to the job.

Below are the very best small cars we've tested – reliable new and used models that scored highly enough to become Which? Best Buy cars. 

We've also uncovered three small cars that are a poor example of the small-car class, displaying none of the comfort and efficiency you'll find in a Best Buy model. These cars are fault prone, dull, and in some cases downright unsafe to drive and must be avoided.

Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations below. If you’re not yet a member, you can get instant access to our best small cars and all of our online reviews - join Which?

Best new small cars

Price from £15,086
Which? score 79%
Reviewed Oct 2010
Driving stability:
5 out of 55 out of 5
Ride quality:
3 out of 53 out of 5
Model reliability 0-3 years:
5 out of 55 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

This upmarket compact hatchback has most of the trappings of larger executive cars, in an easy-to-park body. It's very desirable, but misses out on Best Buy status due to its involvement in recent emissions scandals.

Price from £29,575
Which? score 74%
Reviewed Jan 2017
Driving stability:
3 out of 53 out of 5
Ride quality:
3 out of 53 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

This all-electric hatchback has decent range and performance, and an upmarket feel typical of the brand. A range extender hybrid version is also available for those who regularly travel further afield.

Price from £15,418
Which? score 73%
Reviewed Jul 2012
Driving stability:
4 out of 54 out of 5
Ride quality:
3 out of 53 out of 5
Model reliability 0-3 years:
5 out of 55 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

This advanced motor is technology heavy but doesn't abandon the basics. It's practical, cheap to run and easy to drive.

Price from £14,996
Which? score 72%
Reviewed Mar 2014
Driving stability:
5 out of 55 out of 5
Ride quality:
3 out of 53 out of 5
Model reliability 0-3 years:
4 out of 54 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

It's bigger than ever before, but there's no doubting this hatchback is an entertaining and high quality, premium small car. High emissions in our tests, which are more stringent than official ones, prevent it from being a Best Buy.

Price from £10,820
Which? score 70%
Reviewed Jan 2015
Driving stability:
4 out of 54 out of 5
Ride quality:
4 out of 54 out of 5
Model reliability 0-3 years:
4 out of 54 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

This pleasing hatchback is a comfortable drive, cheap to buy and more spacious than most of its competitors.

Best used small cars

Price from £3,912
Which? score 73%
Reviewed Sep 2011
Driving stability:
4 out of 54 out of 5
Ride quality:
3 out of 53 out of 5
Model reliability 3-8 years:
5 out of 55 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

It may not get pulses racing, but this used model offers great value for money and has proven to be very reliable. All but the earliest models will stilll be covered by the balance of its manufacturer warranty, too.

Price from £7,582
Which? score 72%
Reviewed Oct 2011
Driving stability:
5 out of 55 out of 5
Ride quality:
4 out of 54 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

This is one for keen drivers. Performance and handling are excellent, making it a Which? Best Buy. The small cabin and odd boot means there's strictly room for two, though.

Price from £7,235
Which? score 72%
Reviewed Feb 2011
Driving stability:
4 out of 54 out of 5
Ride quality:
4 out of 54 out of 5
Model reliability 3-8 years:
5 out of 55 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

It may not be sporty to drive but it gets the basics right and is well suited to drivers looking for simplicity. Practicality remains a great plus point, although the hybrid version loses around 100 litres of boot space due to its batteries.

Price from £3,596
Which? score 72%
Reviewed Sep 2010
Driving stability:
5 out of 55 out of 5
Ride quality:
4 out of 54 out of 5
Model reliability 3-8 years:
5 out of 55 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

It's a really good small car choice and gets most things spot on. It's a Which? Best Buy.

Price from £2,923
Which? score 69%
Reviewed Oct 2008
Driving stability:
5 out of 55 out of 5
Ride quality:
4 out of 54 out of 5
Model reliability 3-8 years:
4 out of 54 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

This model's range of talents and broad appeal make it easy to see why it's remained a favourite in the UK. It offers a blend of performance, comfort and safety that puts many larger cars to shame.

Not found the car for you? Click to jump straight to all our small car reviews

And here are three small cars to avoid

Small cars are, well, small, but that doesn't mean they need to feel cramped. We've found models that are deceptively spacious with more legroom than you would expect from the outside. That said, we've found cars that are a tight squeeze for two occupants, let alone five. 

Some manufacturers see the small car moniker as a challenge, adding creative storage solutions and smart folding seats. But other manufacturers see it as an excuse, creating cars with puny, badly-designed boots with high lips that make them difficult to load. 

Being smaller and lighter than most cars doesn't mean a low-powered engine will suffice. Our testing has uncovered engines that struggle to get their cars going. The city car excuse of being designed for driving around town doesn't hold water with small cars. 

They should be as comfortable on a motorway as they are weaving down narrow streets. If the engine can't manage this, then you'll be moving through the gears too often to maintain your speed.

Finally, no matter how small a car is, there is no excuse for it to be unsafe. Our independent testing has uncovered one popular model that has sub-standard crash safety. So we've made it a Don't Buy.

Below, you'll find three of the worst small cars we've tested. These models shouldn't be considered, no matter how tempting the price tag.

Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations in the table below. If you’re not yet a member, you can get instant access to our table and all of our online reviews - join Which?

Small cars to avoid

Price from £11,813
Which? score 45%
Reviewed Jan 2018
Driving stability:
4 out of 54 out of 5
Seat comfort:
3 out of 53 out of 5
Ride quality:
3 out of 53 out of 5
Euro NCAP:
3 out of 53 out of 5
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive
CO2 emissions (best measured):
Member exclusive

This small hatchback is nice to drive and relatively roomy, but it's let down by a three-star Euro NCAP safety rating in standard guise, meaning we can't recommend it.

Price from £13,950
Which? score 45%
Reviewed Feb 2010
Driving stability:
5 out of 55 out of 5
Seat comfort:
3 out of 53 out of 5
Ride quality:
3 out of 53 out of 5
Euro NCAP:
3 out of 53 out of 5
Model reliability 3-8 years:
2 out of 52 out of 5
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive
CO2 emissions (best measured):
Member exclusive

This compact hatchback has won plenty of fans thanks to its fun styling and low running costs. However, when it comes to the critical aspect of safety it falls down, scoring only three stars in its latest Euro NCAP assessment. As such, it's a Don’t Buy car.

Price from £11,411
Which? score 45%
Reviewed Apr 2017
Driving stability:
2 out of 52 out of 5
Seat comfort:
2 out of 52 out of 5
Ride quality:
2 out of 52 out of 5
Euro NCAP:
3 out of 53 out of 5
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive
CO2 emissions (best measured):
Member exclusive

Some cars don’t age gracefully, they get outdated and advances in safety technology render them less safe to drive. This 2016 small car has no such excuse. Low-spec models aren’t fitted with Radar Brake Support, which means the car won’t stop if it detects an imminent collision. Consequently the car only received three stars out of five in its Euro NCAP safety rating.

We test cars more thoroughly than anyone else

Our tests go further than those carried out by other organisations, and because Which? is independent and doesn't accept advertising or freebies, you can trust our reviews to give you the full, honest and impartial truth about every car we test.

Every car we review is subjected to more than 100 individual tests in a lab, on a test track, and on real roads – and we really clock up the miles, driving around 500 miles in every car we test.

Testing in controlled lab conditions means the results we collect are directly comparable between different cars, helping us determine exactly which models are better and why, and helping you find the perfect car for your needs.

And, so you know which cars are likely to prove reliable for years to come, we also gather feedback from thousands of UK car owners through the Which? Car Survey, using it to generate detailed reliability ratings for the cars we test.

To take the guesswork out of choosing your next car, join Which? and you'll receive access to all our expert reviews and advice.

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